Philippians 4:8 - part 1
“…whatever is true…think about these things”
In Philippians 4:8, the word Paul uses for truth derives from the word “lanthanō” which refers to being hidden or concealed. The negative particle (“a”) is put in front to denote what truth is not. Put together, the word is “alēthēs” meaning not hidden or concealed. To think about truth means to think about things that are an actual reality – not things that escape observation or exist only in the recesses of fantasy.
Have you had a confrontation with someone that you dwelled upon long after it was over? Have you played scenarios of conversations in your mind and gotten worked up over who might win the argument? Have you gotten cut off while driving, and afterwards worried about or gotten angry over a situation that never actually happened? How much stress, depression, and wrongful anger have you put yourself through by dwelling on things that are simply not true?
Here’s an example of how we all do this. You’re having a conversation with someone and they make a passing comment with a tone of voice or look on their face that you didn’t expect. Your mind immediately kicks into overdrive thinking about what their motivations are, and those thoughts start wreaking havoc:
“Why did they say that – and in front of everyone! That really made me feel like a loser….I am just completely worthless”.
Then, hours later, when you are supposed to be spending some good time with friends or family, your mind is completely ravaged:
“I’m completely worthless…Everyone is so happy, but I’m not! I can’t do anything….I’m not going to talk to anyone, because why would they want to talk to a worthless person like me.”
Do you see what happened there? In reality, you may have no idea if that passing comment made to you was malicious or not. The reason that comment was made was “lanthanō” (hidden) to you. It’s completely possible that it meant absolutely nothing. But that comment has now been turned into a wall between you and people you care about. Because you’ve shut down and aren’t letting them into what happened, they end up spending hours trying to pry out of you what the disconnect is because they have no idea what is going on. Before you know it, you end up being short and argumentative – and suddenly, issues arise because of an unknown thought run wild.
Here’s a biblical example of someone doing almost exactly this. Egypt had held Israel captive in slavery for over 400 years. When the time came for them to be delivered, God sent a man named Moses to speak to Pharaoh. So Moses said to Pharaoh, “…Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness” (Exodus 5:1). Look how Pharaoh responded, “But he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind…” (Exodus 10:10). What Moses told Pharaoh was to let Israel go so they could hold a feast to God. That was the unobscured reality. Whatever happened in Pharaoh’s mind, he ended up thinking about something that was not true at all – that Moses and Israel didn’t want a feast, but something evil. The relationship between Moses and Pharaoh was never the same.
There are a trillion imagined situations that have run through our mind and even brought us grief, yet have never actually happened. When we replay situations or imagine scenarios in our mind that have no basis in reality, we inadvertently checkout from our responsibility at work, from giving attention to our spouse, our children, our church, and perhaps even from the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives – and instead we devote ourselves to situations, quarrels, and sorrows that simply do not exist at all.
Thinking about untrue things leads to sin against God and others. It’s one thing to battle what our mind thinks about. It’s another thing to let the war rage just because we don’t want to step in and stop the fighting. Untrue thoughts allow for and begin the erosion of our spiritual strength. Almost every sin you ever commit begins with a thought that you allowed to remain in your head unchallenged for way too long. After you’ve thought about it, acting on it seemed increasingly more tolerable, and even desirable. Finally the untrue thought burst out into action usually leaving incredible amounts of damage in it’s wake.
There is hope. You may be losing the battle over your mind, but Philippians 4:6 encourages you to pray to God and make your requests known to Him. Don’t leave your thoughts in the hidden abyss of delusions that aren’t happening. Instead “…take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Because of the life Jesus lived (Matthew 5:17), the fact that He took your place on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21), and the truth of His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) – we can know with an absolute certainty that the Gospel is enough for us.